Defying the impact of a depressed economy on market movements, the Linde Gases Division of The Linde Group closed 2009 with more than 6GWp (Gigawatt peak) of production capacity across its global photovoltaic (PV) customer base.

Linde demonstrated increased market traction, securing multiple new contract wins and renewals with leading thin-film and crystalline manufacturers worldwide, including GS Solar and Suntech in China, Euro Multivision, Indo Solar and Solar Semiconductor in India, and Bosch, Malibu and Masdar in Germany.

Winding down 2009 on an optimistic note, Linde is training its sights on a promising 2010-11 with an aggressive focus on innovation to help PV module manufacturers to drive down costs and reduce carbon footprint.

The company is collaborating with customers in Asia and Europe to achieve sub-$1 per Watt thin-film silicon costs, and is pushing the boundaries of innovation in on-site fluorine generation, silane production and turnkey installations of bulk and specialty gases supply systems.

On the back of stronger demand in Europe, and booming markets in China, India, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, and the United States, Linde sees three key trends impacting industry growth during 2010-11.

Firstly, with imminent reductions in feed-in tariffs, the industry will have to deliver technologies that reduce cost/watt.

Secondly, cost and technology leaders in PV manufacturing will continue to invest in capacity extension despite oversupply.

Finally, government stimulus packages will be received with cautious optimism, unless viably disbursed and sustained in the medium term.

Dean O’Connor, Head of Market Development & Technology at Linde Gases Division, commented, “In 2009, the tough got going. While the industry was suffering with over-capacity, Linde took a keen focus on bolstering customer relationships and investing in innovation to address the cost, efficiency and sustainable manufacturing of photovoltaic cells.”

“Linde’s breakthrough onsite fluorine (F2) generation technology has already established a new benchmark for green PV manufacturing.”

“With industry experts echoing growth predictions, we see 2010 as the ‘Year of the Agile’ (in the PV industry).”

“The entire ecosystem of the industry will have to mobilise, and only the nimble manufacturers, suppliers and policy-makers will come out winners.”

Charles Annis, Vice President at DisplaySearch, said, “During the first half of 2009 the PV industry struggled through its first major down turn in the ‘Solar Cycle’ in years. But PV demand proved highly resilient in the second half.”

“End market demand exceeded 6GW in 2009 and is forecast to grow another 30% in 2010. Top tier solar module manufacturers have returned to high profitability, encouraging them to move forward with investment plans that are expected to increase cell manufacturing capacity from 17GW in 2009 to over 23GW in 2010.”

While the Copenhagen discussions in December achieved a near global consensus on the need to reduce carbon emissions, Linde was already urging the thin-film PV industry to shift focus from Grid Parity to Green Parity – encouraging manufacturers to reduce the carbon footprint of PV module manufacturing to deliver truly green energy.

In 2009, the company launched The Linde Technology Centre in Shanghai to drive R&D initiatives in China and the Asia-Pacific region to improve gases-related industrial processes and develop green technologies geared towards future and sustainable applications.

Linde also has two existing R&D centres in the US and Europe to support those regions.

Over the past four years, Linde has built a leading position in gases and chemical supply to both crystalline and thin-film silicon PV module manufacturers, in key markets including Germany, Spain, Italy, China, Taiwan and India.

To date, Linde has partnered customers on projects with a production capacity of more than 6GWp.